-a good dad, ca. 1983
There are so many ways the men in my life embody the fatherhood of God. I have friends who are dads to teenagers and young adults and they are incredible at taking each of their kids seriously, seeing them for them. Not what they should be, could be, but just enjoying who they really are. My brother, who had his first baby a few weeks ago, is the picture of dad delight. He holds his tiny girl with such amazement -like he can’t believe she’s actually here, the slow dawning of how she’s actually his to love for his whole life – it’s ridiculously sweet. There’s my husband, whose patience is legendary. He can set boundaries, hold fast, but hold love and forgiveness out so quick, so easily, so free. With him, there is no “dad” status to be shaken, no power to be wielded over the kids that can be taken so personally. He just loves who they are. And he laughs with them and provides for these kids of ours with grace after grace, clearing the way for them to own their faiths and their understanding of a good life.
And then there’s my own dad. Of all the ways my dad embodies our Good Father, the one that stands out is how he is present. Quietly, unceasingly present to us, my brother and I, inviting us to be with him. From the time I was little, to even today, we knew we could just be in the same room as Dad. Whether he was reading, working, playing the piano, cooking a meal, we were always welcome – we are still always welcome.
My dad offers advice, he is not a superhuman and makes mistakes. He could even be stern – at times – but all this was distant seconds and thirds to his Presence and his Welcome. And this has proven to be the gift of my life. From my first forays into adulthood, through clinical depressions, through interprovincial moves, through the hard births of my kids, through the loss of my mom and his love – even then – he has embodied the invitation of the presence of God, of my own (and his) Good Father.
I know that with my Dad there is a welcome that is inexhaustable, that will never expire. There is a welcome that does not have conditions placed upon it. And for some reason, this is THE ground that empowers me to respond well. This welcome gifts me with an unshakable status, a place in his life and in this world that does not need to be defended and fought for. It does it again and again. And it is this place of welcome and presence that in turn has empowered me. To try things. To make mistakes. To take the response-ability, to use the gifts, to confess with honesty and respond with justice, fidelity and hope to all the stuff this world can throw at me. And when all those fancy words turn into big mistakes, turn sour, or lose steam or hope or direction, he is just still there.
This Father’s Day, I am aware that not all our fathers embodied our Good Father, and not all the men around us show us God’s fatherhood. And that reality breaks us and them and breaks the world. I hope this doesn’t gloss over the reality of that.
But even with that in mind, even with all the ways any human is not enough, on this Father’s Day could there be an invitation for us to pay attention to all the ways those around us do embody Father – friends, colleagues, brothers, dads, sons. And then could we say thank you. To them for their embodied lives. And to God – Thank you Good Father for all of it.